Why Is Summer Reading So Important for Kids' Success?

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Summer reading is critical for students to retain knowledge and skills learned in the previous school year. Students who don't read are at risk of falling behind their classmates. Parents and teachers can avoid this by making sure kids take time to read.

Summer Reading Defeats Summer Learning Loss

Reading over summer vacation may not be a priority for children, but parents and teachers should make it one. Why? Summer reading is critical to a child's ability to not only retain information learned the previous year, but also to grow in knowledge and critical thinking skills for the coming year. Literacy expert Julie Wood believes that it is necessary for children to read on a daily basis in order to maintain literacy skills learned in the previous school year.

Exercise the Brain Over Summer

Assistant Principal Twana Santana-Embry likens reading to exercising. She encourages students to read in an effort to strengthen their reading skills. Just like exercising keeps muscles in shape, reading keeps the brain in shape. If you don't exercise, you lose muscle, and if you don't read, you will lose literacy skills.

A University of Tennessee, Knoxville, research study shows that children who don't read over the summer lose at least two months of reading development. This is often referred to as 'the summer slide' or the 'summer learning loss.' On the other hand, students who do read over the summer may gain a month of proficiency in reading. Reading over the summer is not a suggestion to keep kids busy; it's a critical requirement to help students stay on track for their entire educational career and beyond.

Boy reading

Increase Knowledge

Reading, in general, is highly effective at building up a child's knowledge in a vast amount of subject areas, including English, math, science and history. Studies conducted by Dr. Alice Sullivan monitored the impact of reading in a child's life from elementary through adulthood. These studies discovered a greater intellectual progress in vocabulary, spelling and math than that of a child not reading more than the required school amount. Clearly, reading is a strong tool for growing in comprehension skills and general knowledge of the world. This is why children who read are able to stay ahead of their classmates during the school year.

Encourage Summer Reading

Summer reading is very important for maintaining a child's current grade level skills and for pushing forward to develop skills above the current grade level. But how can parents encourage their children to read over the summer? Here are a few summer reading suggestions from teachers who shared their thoughts with Scholastic.

Send Books Home with Students

Teachers have discovered that students who are sent home with books of their choosing are more apt to read over the summer than students who are given a summer reading list or are simply told what read over the summer. Further studies reveal that children of lower income have more difficulty finding access to books and reading programs. Allowing students to pick a few books to take home over summer vacation not only increases access to books, but it also encourages students to read on their own.

If you don't want to send books home with your students, teachers recommend helping students plug in to their local library before the school year is out so they can feel comfortable with going to the library in the summer. Students without access to a library may want to form a book club or book swap in their own community to create additional access to books.

Teens reading

Create a Reading Challenge

One teacher suggests creating a game or contest to help encourage students to read over the summer break. For instance, the library can keep a log of books checked out by students over the summer. For those without access to a library, parents can keep a log of books read so students can still participate. When school starts, students can take a print out of the log to their new school teacher and show what was read over the summer. Students who return the reading log to their teacher the following year will get to participate in a pizza party or even an ice cream party.

Build Up Anticipation

Another suggestion from a teacher is for teachers to get their students hooked on a book series close to the end of the school year. Read the first book in a series aloud to the class and build up excitement and anticipation for the next book in the series. When school lets out for the summer, encourage students to go to their local library or bookstore and pick up the next book in the series.

Suggest Audio Books

If students have a hard time reading, suggest they read a few books over the summer to help build their reading skills. At the same time, find books that are also available on audiotape. This can help encourage students to keep reading even if they don't particularly like it. A book on tape still opens up the world of adventure and gives students a boost in literacy skills.

Thumbs up for reading

Don't Forget to Read for Fun

Encouraging children to read is critical to helping them stay on track with other students and retain information and literacy development over the summer break. If you're not sure what your children should be reading, there are a variety of reading lists available through sources such as Study.com. For instance, here are a variety of reading lists to choose from:

Don't forget to keep reading fun. The lists are just suggestions for summer reading. Give your child the opportunity to choose books on his own as well. This can help keep reading interesting and inviting. Reading over the summer is a necessity, but it should also be fun!

By Amanda Johnson
July 2017
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